Chief Leader - December 23, 2014by RICHARD STEIER
As far apart as the de Blasio administration and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association had been in their reactions to a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the cop at the center of the Eric Garner case, the gulf is arguably wider in their proposals for a new union contract that will soon be considered by an arbitration panel.
Two 5s vs. One 1
The PBA is seeking raises of 5 percent in each year of a two-year contract. In contrast, the city is offering a single 1-percent raise that would take effect midway through the deal’s second year. Under the rules of the state Public Employment Relations Board, which has jurisdiction over the arbitration, a pay award cannot be issued for more than a two-year period unless there is mutual consent by the parties. Police Officers are currently working under a contract that expired Aug. 1, 2010. The city’s offer on compensation ends at that point in the context of a two-year award. The PBA’s goes on at length, seeking among other things a $2,000 longevity differential once cops complete 22 years of service, an important benchmark for officers hired starting in 2010 who as the result of changes in Albany must now work at least that long to qualify for a full pension. It also demanded a 12-percent salary differential for all members still performing patrol duties after they have completed their eighth year on the job, and education differentials of from 10 percent of salary for those with 60 college credits or two years of military service to 20 percent for those with master’s or other post-graduate degrees.
The union is also pursuing an anti-terrorism differential equal to 10 percent of salary that would match what has been paid to State Troopers since not long after 9/11. It said this should be paid in “recognition of the increased or enhanced workload, specialized training and heightened health and safety risks resulting from terrorism threats and incidents within New York City.”
It also demanded free-parking privileges for cops’ personal cars near their commands or reimbursement for parking fees they must pay, a $200 annual increase in welfare-fund payments for each member by the city, and a conversion of annuity payments and uniformed allowances to 2 percent of maximum salary in each case. The union also wants an improvement in vacation schedules for officers hired from July 1, 2008 forward who were forced to accept an inferior vacation schedule as the result of an arbitration award issued a couple of months earlier, and the right for cops to transfer some of their vacation time to fellow officers.
Seek Interest on Back Pay
While the de Blasio administration has been able to limit the burden of substantial back-pay obligations under contract deals with other city unions by pushing the payment of the largest share of that money far into the future—in many cases with up to 75 percent of the money being implemented between 2018 and 2020—the PBA has demanded that its members receive 3-percent annual interest on any back pay they do not receive within 30 days of the contract being reached. This interest demand also applies to longevity and other differentials, as well as holiday pay.
Perhaps the heftiest item on the union’s list calls for cops to receive a share of the savings the city has realized going back to Aug. 1, 1999 as a result of reducing headcount—by more than 5,000 cops once all ranks are included—with no loss of productivity.
It also wants a change in officers’ duty charts that would lengthen their tours—to somewhere between 10 and 12 hours—but by doing so reduce the number of appearances they need to make to satisfy the requirement under the state Public Officers Law that they be scheduled to work 2,088 hours per year. (The hours actually worked are reduced by vacation days which are built into their schedules, as well as a variety of other items).
$1,600 for No Missed Days
Police Officers are entitled to unlimited sick leave, but the union wants bonuses paid to those who rarely take advantage of the program, demanding bonuses ranging from $100 to those who take just four sick days a year to $1,600 for those who never call in sick during that period.
Last but not least, the PBA has demanded a general wage increase, retroactive to Aug. 1, 2010, for all cops equivalent to the savings the city has realized as a result of a pension change under which cops hired beginning in 2010 were placed in Tier 3 of the pension system, requiring them to making larger contributions to their retirement funds and receive lesser benefits despite having to work an extra two years to qualify for a full pension.
At the extreme opposite end of the negotiating spectrum, the de Blasio administration has stipulated that if the union is willing to step outside the two-year award rule to discuss a seven-year deal similar to the one it reached earlier this month with a coalition of uniformed unions including those representing NYPD Detectives, Lieutenants and Captains and Inspector positions, it would offer more-sizable raises. Even there, however, its proposal is less generous than the terms of the coalition deal, which is awaiting ratification: it would provide just 10 percent in wage increases, compared to the 11 percent agreed to with those other uniformed unions.
Pay for Extra Raises
If the PBA wanted increases beyond that amount—which matches what the city gave to civilian-employee unions for similar periods—it would have to make concessions in other areas to offset the cost to the city. Those would include producing health-benefit savings above the levels being requested of other municipal unions, and an increase in the number of appearances they would have to make as a result of a 20-minute reduction in their shifts.
The city also floated potential money-savers such as scaling back the hours for which Police Officers are eligible for a night differential equivalent to 10 percent of their base salaries from the current range from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. to the period from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. This demand figures to be particularly grating because officers in neighboring jurisdictions already enjoy far-more-generous night-differential provisions. The most-notorious example is in Nassau County, where until a 2003 arbitration award scaled back night-differential hours to the period from noon to 8 a.m., the only hour for which officers did not receive the additional compensation was from 11 a.m. to noon.
The city also proposed as a money-saving item to pay for additional raises a reduction of two holidays for which cops receive a special differential in recognition of the fact that they are expected to work on all such days, and a cap on the number of vacation days at 25, regardless of years of service.
Slower Rise on Pay Scale
The city also proposed a change in the time in which new cops progress to maximum pay from the current six steps (completed in 5½ years) to eight. Although it did not spell out the specifics of the progression, it is likely that new cops would receive a smaller percentage of top pay on each step of the scale, as has been the case with past “stretches” dating back to 1988. Under the 2005 arbitration award, the union in order to ensure two 5-percent raises for incumbent officers had to accept a new starting salary of $26,000, and reductions along the pay scale that cost cops hired beginning in 2006 a total of $48,000 in their the progression to top pay compared to those who had been hired prior to that.
Mr. Lynch at the time defended the decision to “sacrifice the unborn,” as it is commonly known, saying that his obligation was to secure the best deal possible for those he already represented rather than worrying about future hires. The reduced starting salary and pay scale seemed to make it more difficult for the NYPD to recruit qualified officers, and in the 2008 arbitration the Bloomberg administration agreed to significantly boost both to roughly their previous levels but insisted on other givebacks for new hires in areas like vacation time to even out the costs.
The PBA recently posted both sides’ demands on its website. Although such issues are usually accessed only by union members using a special password, it was not until a reporter who clicked on the “contract” function Dec. 16 and was able to examine the demands asked a spokesman for PBA President Patrick J. Lynch about them that they were walled off from public examination less than 48 hours later.
Election to Precede Award?
City Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn said last week that no dates had yet been scheduled for the arbitration, in which he will serve as the city’s representative on the panel and attorney Jay Waks will be the PBA’s designee. The panel will be chaired by the neutral member, veteran arbitrator Howard C. Edelman.
It typically takes at least six months once hearings begin for completion of the parties’ presentations and discussion among the arbitrators to allow for the issuance of an award. If that schedule prevails, cops will not be presented with contract terms until sometime after the upcoming PBA election has been completed in early June. At this time, there is no known opposition to Mr. Lynch, who has been president since mid-1999.